With 24 hours to prepare, Minneapolis police fail to stop gunfight

I don’t usually direct my evening walks through Uptown on a weekend, but on Saturday I had the expectation that something might happen. Friday night had been chaotic, even by Uptown standards (I watched from home on snapchat). Fireworks in the street outside the bars, street racing, tire burnouts, doing donuts in the intersection. Would it happen again? Would the police try to take control? I wanted to see.

When I got there, some neighbors were expecting something too. After a sleepless night, they were outside talking and preparing. They were using furniture from a wine bar patio to set up a makeshift roadblock in an alley. Hours before the shooting and throughout the night, police were posted at officially-sanctioned barricades blocking car traffic on Hennepin, Lagoon, and Lake St through all of Uptown.

Anyone who was paying attention on Friday, expected something would happen in Uptown on Saturday. That’s not to say anyone thought 12 11 people would be shot. But police were there, expecting to be needed, in position to respond. And yet there was still a mass shooting in Uptown, leaving one man dead, and no shooters in custody. [MPD has corrected their earlier report. The man who died was actually shot and killed near Target Center downtown.]

I’m sure there are some grand conclusions to draw from Saturday night, but the most obvious one is: “Minneapolis Police, with 24 hours to prepare, fail to stop gunfight.”

Following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop, I’ve been surprised at how the city council has come together in relative unity. All 12 signed on to a resolution “Declaring the intent to create a transformative new model for cultivating safety in our city.” It seems likely a council majority will vote in favor of a ballot measure that would allow the council to replace at least some MPD functions with a new department devoted “community safety and violence prevention.” (The city’s Charter Commission will have something to say about whether this makes it on the ballot in time for this November.)

Even Lisa Goodman — the council member with the longest history of opposing the most basic police reforms and the one most likely to fear monger — has been conciliatory. At an East Isles neighborhood association meeting on June 16, Goodman defended the defunders, saying she doesn’t believe her colleagues are saying there should be no police in the city at all. (In this situation you would normally expect Lisa Goodman to say they want to pull all cops off the street tomorrow.)

But the politics of crime and public safety are going to test the council’s unity. More than 90 people have been shot in Minneapolis since George Floyd was killed. Nights like Saturday in Uptown are sure to inspire calls for more police from the same white homeowners Lisa Goodman was trying to reassure last week.

I recently found myself in the middle of a conversation involving one such white homeowner, predisposed to support more cops. This person described a talk they’d just had with police that ended with, “hope you guys vote.” It reminded me of this from Council Member Steve Fletcher, who was elected in 2017:

Yes, your city’s police force is political — and they elect Bob Kroll to represent them. Kroll is the openly racist union president who applauds brutality and calls Black Lives Matter a “terrorist organization.” The same union cited by mayors, chiefs, and council members — present and past — as an immovable barrier to change.

In a conversation with his counterparts in Seattle last week, Minneapolis Council Member Jeremiah Ellison described a police force that resents and brutalizes the people of Minneapolis, in part because hardly any of them live here.

When asked if they were engaging in work slowdowns, MPD spokesman John Elder says that’s “categorically false.” The problem is, the department routinely lies about things big and small.

In the wake of the mass destruction that followed the death of George Floyd, Fletcher said MPD “can’t threaten this any more.” That sentiment felt right to me at the time. How could it get worse than a city on fire? But what’s supposed to stop MPD from derailing a year-long conversation about public safety — and making the next 12 months heading into a city election as painful as possible?